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Nutrition through the Decades: 1970s

While Americans in the 1970s did consume less calories than Americans do now, that definitely does not mean they were the poster children for health, either. According to a graph provided by the Pew Research Center regarding the average daily per capita calories in America in the 1970s versus in the 2010s, the 1970s average was 2,025 calories per day, whereas the 2010s average was 2,481.[1] Let’s have a closer look at what kind of foods most 1970s Americans were enjoying every year. Another chart created by the Pew Research Center shows that in the 1970s, Americans were consuming more potatoes, refined cane and beet sugar, beef, eggs, milk, full-fat ice cream and margarine per pound than in the 2010s. It also shows that they were consuming less chicken, cooking oils, corn sweeteners, corn products, cheese, rice and yogurt

than Americans in the 2010s.[2]

It’s safe to say that what people put into their bodies is fairly important to their health, so what in the world were people in the 70s thinking when they were drinking literal garbage? No, that is not an exaggeration. A diet dubbed the “Last Chance” diet “consisted of slaughterhouse floor waste. [...] The drink had no nutritionally redeeming qualities and provided only 400 calories per day.”[1] That calorie count is even more devastating than the Metrecal diet in the 60s! If all that doesn’t sound bad enough, people (unsurprisingly) were facing horrible effects while on this diet like getting sick and suffering from heart attacks.[2] This drink wasn’t the only issue with diet culture, in the 70s, though. People were also eating amino acid-laced cookies (groovy, right?), and they were consuming over-the-counter diet pills like Dexatrim which was eventually connected to some cases of people having strokes and subsequently taken off the market.[3] This might make you think twice about ordering those random weight-loss pills off the internet.

Obviously, the 1970s wasn’t all about peace, love, and disco. It came with its fair share of issues regarding the health and nutrition of members of American society. In my opinion, I’m down with the 70s fashion coming back, but I hope these diet trends stay in the past forever.

[1] DeSilver, D. (2020, May 30). How America's diet has changed over time.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Martin, R. (2021, August 10). Diet fads through the decades.

[4] Ibid.

Author: Lauryn Agron

Editor: Sophia Galvez

Health scientist: Hira Mughal


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